Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

My “Shadow” Complex Cartoon Characters

Originally posted on October 1, 2017

“The Shadow” complex is the English word for what Jung called all those parts of the usually unconscious psyche that are repressed, that are incompatible with healthy self-esteem. Yet I am somewhat aware that I played with characters associated with this complex in some of my old drawings and cartoons. I’m a bit embarrassed about them now, but I need to admit (confidentially to you alone—plus all the others—) that some of my favorite characters really were unpleasant figures—reflecting their “shadow” being.

Of course, evil characters are quite present in the comics! I read a not-too-great book with at least an interesting theme—a fabulously bright fellow who was otherwise socially awkward, and who chose to express it by becoming and evil genius—or as the book “Soon I Will Be Invincible” calls it, “Malign Hypercognition Disorder.” (Haha, giving a psychiatric diagnostic label is just one of the tropes here, but the book failed to “wrap it up” well.)

I have become aware (even before I read that book) that I found the ways a number of wicked villains—including Captain Marvel’s nemesis, Doctor Sivana, or other villains. Also, I was early on interested in the various conquerors of mainly the Middle East. (I was insatiable reader of the historical reconstructions of Harold Lamb.) I do a bit of auto-analysis and note that I was overcompensating for having an older brother who picked on me a little —a punch on the shoulder at most, but it was bad for me—“Mo–oo–m! Irwin hit me!”—and as I reconstruct it, I unconsciously figured that if I ruled the universe my brother couldn’t pick on me.

So my “shadow” complex was a cruel conqueror, although I consciously was frightened of and hated cruelty. I expressed these in a few of my characters, such as “Snidely Whiplash,” a caricature of a villain portrayed in melodramas popular around the beginning of the 20th century. Other monsters were fun to cartoon because it’s much easier to draw ugly than attractive.

I feel ashamed now, and would not disclose it except for the need to express my being truthfully, the “dark side” included, though on the whole I’m pretty nice. (My ex-first-wife might not agree. I think she found me a creep, but not overtly terribly mean.)

Anyway, I enjoy playing the bad guy, such as Snidely Whiplash, who is also the editor of the Journal of Punitive Psychiatry. But I’m moving away from it also. I just thought I’d admit it.

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